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Poverty is a Learning Experience? Why One Conservative Thinks We Should Not Raise Minimum Wage

Turns out persons who work minimum wage jobs are not supposed to be able to about to feed their families or pay the rent. After all, if we treat workers too well they will not learn that they can do better than their current minimum wage lives.

That is, at least according to Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot ,who said on Sunday’s edition of ‘This Week’, workers should think of minimum wage jobs as a stepping-stone, not a lifestyle choice.

“Look, I worked for the minimum wage,” he explained, clearly having something in common with today’s low-wage poor.  “Two bucks an hour back in the 1970s. I had jobs that — what did I learn? I learned to show up on time, I learned certain skills, and I learned I didn’t want to make the rest of my life so I better get an education.”

He added that by raising minimum wage in Seattle, the mayor was pricing out those teenagers who are supposed to learn they were better than low wages earners and decide to go to college instead.

“I think what [Mayor Ed Murray] is going to find out is he’s pricing a bunch of people out of the labor market,” Gigot continued. “Particularly the young, the least skilled, teenagers, people who want to go in and get in on that basic, bottom rung of the economic latter and move up.”

Gigot failed to address, of course, how the majority of  America’s poorest was supposed to afford the education that would make them feel better about themselves and get them higher paying jobs. He also skipped over the growing number of Americans end up in  low-wage jobs after going to college.

As the Nation’s  Katrina Vanden Heuvel also pointed out in response to Gigot, times have changed.  It is no longer the 1970’s and today’s low-wage workers are predominately adults, not kids working after school jobs to ‘learn a lesson.’ In fact, only 1 out of 10 low-wage earners are teens these days.

Further, she said, countering Gigot, it is not the low wage earners that need to learn to better themselves, but a country that allows the working poor to earn so little they must rely on government food support in the first place.

“Morally, what does it say about America if you’re an American, and you work full time, and you live in poverty?” she said, stressing that there is far more at stake than teaching a middle class white kid how to work hard.

Photo Credit: Screenshot


About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.